First 3+3 Accelerated Law Student Begins UM School of Law

Jessica Simon begins her journey to a Juris Doctor this summer

OXFORD, Miss. – Jessica Simon always wanted to be an advocate for people in need.

To fulfill that lifelong mission, Simon will begin her studies at the University of Mississippi School of Law this summer while finishing her last year of the undergraduate 3+3 Accelerated Law program in the Department of Legal Studies. The native of Nashville, Tennessee, is the first student from the program to be admitted to the School of Law.

“I love learning about laws and how laws interact with and shape our society,” Simon said. “I realized that I could advocate for people and help people by learning the law and assisting them through their legal issues.”

In her first three years of study, Simon took courses in legal research and writing, civil litigation, and criminal law and procedure, providing her with a critical understanding of the total system of justice. In her fourth year, she will begin taking classes for first-year law students, including contracts, torts, civil procedure, property and constitutional law.

Taking undergraduate courses under the instruction of Ole Miss law professors such as William Berry helped Simon prepare for the challenges ahead, but the one-on-one attention she received from instructors such as Melissa Jones, an adjunct assistant professor in legal studies, challenged her to produce the caliber of work worthy of official acceptance into law school – a requirement of the 3+3 Accelerated Law program.

Jessica Simon is the first student to join the UM School of Law from the 3+3 Accelerated Law program in the university’s Department of Legal Studies. Photo by Sarah Sapp/School of Applied Studies

“She pulled me out of my shell and made me want to explore the profession more,” Simon said. “I am so grateful that I have had her as a professor and approached her about additional learning opportunities.

“She is very approachable and cares deeply about her students. In my opinion, she is one of the greatest assets to the legal studies program. At this point in my life, she is my greatest inspiration.”

Jones praised Simon for her eagerness to learn and initiative to seek out opportunities beyond the classroom.

“She even asked if she could shadow me at pro-bono clinics to really understand and apply the skills that she’s learned in the classroom,” Jones said. “She understands that dedication and going the extra mile are going to help prepare her even more.

“Jessi is going to be much better prepared for law school than other students coming out of undergrad because she has had the specific legal training from instructors and practitioners in the field that are very well-versed and very experienced. She is getting those behind-the-scenes looks and feet-on-the-ground experiences ahead of ever entering law school.”

Students such as Simon were exactly who interim Linda Keena, chair of legal studies, had in mind when she and the department’s faculty launched the program two years ago.

“We wanted to be able to reach those students at an early stage, prepare them for law school and prepare them for the LSAT,” Keena said. “Our goal was to find the right professors who were already teaching at the law school level and bring that down to an undergraduate level.

“We met with professors who said, ‘This is what I wish I had when I was in undergraduate school,’ and we all just put our heads together and that is how we developed the program. We use adjunct professors that have the expertise in those areas that gets them ready for the first year of law school.

Simon will not be the only 3+3 student walking the halls of the Robert C. Khayat Law Center this summer. Shortly after Simon learned she was the first to be admitted to the law school from her program, classmate Sierra Anton, of Picayune, learned he, too, would be joining the incoming class of first-year law students.

The School of Applied Sciences, home of the Department of Legal Studies, offers professional preparation programs that integrate academic study, clinical training, creative research, service-learning and community outreach, leading to the development of leaders whose professional endeavors will improve health and well-being.